Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Unwanted pregnancies

Here is a potential minefield. Police are considering whether to charge a heavily pregnant woman for drinking a good deal of alcohol.

There is no law I am aware of that they can use. But it wouldn't surprise me if government doesn't some time soon try to introduce one because there is a big and probably growing problem here. If a woman cannot look after her baby in the womb what chance she will outside of it?

But how would one draft and enforce such a law. The most dangerous time for ingestion of alcohol is in the first trimester when the foetus is forming. During this period many people are unaware they are pregnant so certainly nobody else would know. In which case could people be prosecuted retrospectively?

Then there would be a great deal of arguing over safe levels of consumption. One glass of wine is a different story to one carton.

Can you imagine the kind of 'narking' , with or without genuine cause, that would go on?

What would the punishment be? Earlier this week Work and Income admitted they cannot force beneficiaries to undergo treatment for alcoholism. I suppose the courts can, but on pain of what? Certainly not losing one's benefit. And yes I am picking that many of these sorts of cases would involve beneficiaries. The threat of losing or not getting back custody of imminent birth child and any other children? Unfortunately the damage is already done. And that's what really worries me.

I forsee a future where adoption will once again become a more popular and acceptable option for unwanted (this one is) children but many will be starting life with significant health and developmental problems due to being carried by mothers who have high and daily intake of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. In which case these potential mothers should be financially incentivised to use long-term contraceptives, injections or implants or, if they already have children and are happy to, have an immediate tubal ligation. There are youngish mothers who would be happy to be free from pregnancy risk but medical wisdom says rationed operations should go to older women. Wrong.

Prevention can work. More laws and futile attempts to police them will not.


Anonymous said...

In situations like this I wish there was some legislation to sort out that women. If there was though, all she would get is a fine that she wouldnt be able to pay.
The other thing is though, if we introduce legislation to stop binge drinking in pregnancy it is only a small jump to that same legislation making it a crime for pregnant women to eat a doughnut.

Anonymous said...

It would raise a few potentially thorny issues as far as abortion is concerned. Legislating to prevent mothers drinking excessively (however defined) in the first trimester would of necessity mean granting the foetus rights under law.

Anonymous said...

The only real solution to combat issues of this nature is to end state welfare.

That *can* be done. But it won't, because nobody has the guts to do what needs to be done.

Tinkering is not enough. Everything else is either missing the point or going round in circles, or both.

Anonymous said...

"Even one drink can cause damage to the unborn child" and other slogans. Tell that to women in France, Greece and Italy to name a few places.

Getting pissed out of your head repeatedly when pregnant may do something but the scare tactics are a joke.

Brian Smaller

Libertyscott said...

Actually the right response is abolishing ACC. The right to sue would make a difference, and people should be able to sue for recklessness by their mothers whilst in the womb.

I would be happy with a law that prosecuted anyone for damage to the foetus attributable to drug, alcohol or tobacco use. Simple as that.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

LibertyScott, That relies on the risk of prosecution being a successful deterrent. A son or daughter may be able to prosecute but the damage is already done. So I still prefer my idea of preventing conception when pregnancies are not wanted. Or not wanted for the right reasons.

Sus would argue that the pregnancies are wanted (or at least not prevented) because money is attached. Which is why I add that using contraception has to be financially incentivised (as much as that offends my ideal of not using taxpayer money for social purposes).

But I wouldn't envisage such a programme as a permanent state of affairs. It's merely suggested as an improvement for as long as we insist on continuing with the DPB.